Hypermediated politics - Kurds in Western Europe demonstrate against the arrest of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan, 1999. Image - BBC News

Insurgency Online

AS.POLS 4001C 3.0

Dr. Michael Dartnell
Department of Political Science,
York University

Winter 2000


Monday: 9h30 - 11h30
Classroom: 2009 Vari Hall
Office: 359A York Lanes, Centre for International and Security Studies (CISS)
Office hrs.: Mons. 13h - 16h or by appointment
Telephone: (416) 736-2100/5156 (xtn. 30714) or 416.923.3854 (home)
E-Mail: dartnell@yorku.ca
Webpage: Online Resource Guide to Political Inquiry


The political impact of the Internet appears enormous, but is difficult to apprehend. Insurgency Online treats Internet political communication as one change within a wider post-Cold War political context in which struggle between capitalism and communism is supplanted by a multiplicity of political identities, as in contemporary nationalism and religious movements. One suggestive impact of the Internet is that previously unknown, marginal or illegal movements in specific physical places now articulate themselves to a wider public and are actively transnational. The course looks at some of these movements from the point of view of theory and broad cross-national comparison. It examines how they use the Internet to provide information in their campaigns against governments, which some analysts call "netwar". The aim is to sharpen the focus between such organizations and those who threaten or harass authorities or others through "hacking" or electronic sabotage.


Evaluation and Grades




Each student must submit a two-page summary of each week's readings, a total of twenty-six pages (22 pp.) for the entire course. The purpose of the summaries is to create a collective learning environment and stimulate class discussion by ensuring that everyone engages assigned materials. A summary might aim to synthesize the main arguments made by authors in weekly readings, focus on one author, concentrate on a specific theme in one or more authors or more generally provide a critical response to materials. In any case, it is not enough to state that you like or do not like an article or to provide an unsubstantiated criticism (ie. a "rant"). You must give specific reasons for whatever weakness, strength or problem areas you find in the readings. Students must submit their summaries each week in type-written form. Your summary grade will be accumulated throughout the year on the basis of the quality of your summaries. The maximum length for each summary is two pages. Summaries that are longer than two pages will not be accepted.


Paper Proposals, Presentations, and Papers

Each student must submit a twelve-to-fifteen page (12-15 pp.) research paper before the end of the course. Students are encouraged to choose their own topic, subject to my approval, but a list of topics will be handed out early in the term. In both cases, everyone must submit a proposal that outlines their topic, sets out an approach and includes a bibliography (containing three or four book-length references along with several properly cited Websites and three or four articles). If you do not provide me with a proposal, your paper will not be accepted for grading. The paper proposal is worth 15% (fifteen percent) of your grade. After approval, your paper topic will serve as the basis for a fifteen (15) minute class presentation. The presentation will provide an opportunity to test your ideas and research for the paper. Each presentation must include three questions that form hypotheses for your research. Students will choose a date for their presentation early in the term. The paper proposal, presentation and paper provide a structure through which each student can explore themes/issues that interest them. Your interest might very well change during the course of the seminar. In this case, please discuss your presentation and paper with me.

  • If it is not clear to you what is expected in summaries, paper proposals, presentations or papers, please say so in class or directly to me. Do not wait until the date on which the assignment is due (or the evening before).



    Participation and Attendance

    A portion of your grade (10%) is set aside for participation and attendance. Participation means that you show up for class and demonstrate that you are following discussion. Participation marks do not mean that one shows up for class and "zones out" nor that you say anything that comes to mind. The relevance of your comments is subject to evaluation.

    If you miss a class and want to receive credit for the period, you must provide me with a note from your doctor, university health services or some other appropriate person that explains why you were absent. Otherwise, you will not receive marks for that class. In any case, you will not receive marks if you are not in attendance without reasonable justification.



  • David Ronfeldt, John Arquilla et al, The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico, Santa Monica, CA: Rand, 1998.
  • Critical Art Ensemble, Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1996.

    Additional readings are on reserve in the library and available on the WWW (if their URL is provided below). Unless otherwise indicated, all readings are required.

    Additional readings may be added during the term at my discretion.


    The WWW is seeing an explosion of electronic publication by a wide variety of political groups. Among the Webpages that students might find of interest are -

  • Bahamian Gays and Lesbians Against Discrimination (BGLAD).
  • BURN!.
  • Chechen Republic Online.
  • Electronic Civil Disobedience (archive for the Electronic Disturbance Theatre).
  • Free B92.
  • Free Burma Coalition.
  • Free Tibet Campaign.
  • GayIran.
  • Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ).
  • Help B92.
  • Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).
  • Kurdish Information Network.
  • MED-TV (Kurdish Satellite Television).
  • Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.
  • Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
  • Zapatistas in Cyberspace (Harry Cleaver).




    1. Information, Security and War

    Joseph S. Nye, Jr. and William Owens, "America's Information Edge", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 75, No. 2, pp. 20-36.
    Eliot A. Cohen, "A Revolution in Warfare", Foreign Affairs, Vol. 75, No. 2, pp. 37-54.
    Chris Hables Gray, "Real Cyberwar" and "Computers at War: Kuwait 1991", Postmodern War: The New Politics of Conflict, New York: The Guilford Press, 1997, pp. 19-35 and 36-50.
    United States Space Command (USSPACECOM).
    BBC News - "War of words on the Internet" (Lawrence Peter, Oct. 25, 1998) and "US crackdown on cyber-terrorism" (Jan. 7, 2000).

    Hakim Bey, The Information War, CTheory, 1995.

    2. Theorizing Netwar: Security Perspective

    John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, "Cyberwar is Coming!", Comparative Strategy, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1993, pp. 141-165.
    Arquilla and Ronfeldt, The Advent of Netwar, Rand, 1996, chaps. 1-3, pp. 1-46.
    BBC News - "Med TV: 'Kurdistan in the sky'", (Peter Feuilherade, Feb. 16, 1999), "Europe's well-connected Kurds", (Pam O'Toole, Feb. 23, 1999), "UK regulator suspends Med TV over violent calls", (Mar. 22, 1999), and "Kurdish TV station closed down" (Mar. 23, 1999).
    Tim McGirk, "Wired for Warfare", Time Magazine, Oct. 11, 1999, Vol., 154, No. 15.

    3. Theorizing Netwar: Practitioners' Perspective

    Critical Art Ensemble, Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1996, chaps. 1-2, pp. 7-56.
    Critical Art Ensemble, "Introduction: The Virtual Condition", and "Nomadic Power and Cultural Resistance", The Electronic Disturbance, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1994, pp. 3-34.
    Critical Art Ensemble.

    4. The Zapatistas (EZLN) I

    Arquilla and Ronfeldt, The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico, Rand, 1998, chaps. 1-3, pp. 1-44.
    Ricardo Dominguez, "Electronic Zapatismo" CTheory, Jan. 21, 1998.
    Dominguez, "The Ante-Chamber of Revolution - A Prelude to a Theory of Resistance and Maps" CTheory, Nov. 18, 1998.
    "YA BASTA!" (Zapatista National Liberation Army Website).

    Judith Adler Hellman, "Real and Virtual Chiapas: Magic Realism and the Left", Socialist Register, SR 2000, "Necessary and Unnecessary Utopias".

    5. The Zapatistas II

    Arquilla and Ronfeldt, The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico, Rand, 1998, chaps. 4-6, pp. 45-112.
    Harry Cleaver, "The Zapatistas and the International Circulation of Struggle: Lessons Suggested and Problems Raised", 1998.
    BBC News, "Internet increases global inequality, says UN".
    Matthew Broersma, "Zapatista supporters, US, Mexico clash in bloodless 'Infowar' era protest", ZDNet,Sept. 9, 1998.

    Harry Cleaver, "The Zapatistas and the Electronic Fabric of Struggle", November 1995.


    6. The Internet and Geo-political Dislocation

    Critical Art Ensemble, Electronic Civil Disobedience, chaps. 3-5, pp. 57-112.
    Olu Oguibe, "Forsaken Geographies - Cyberspace and the New World 'Other'", 5th International Cyberspace Conference, Madrid, June 1996.
    Human Rights Watch, "The Internet in the Mideast and North Africa".

    U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Understanding the Digital Economy.

    7. The Net Gets Regional

    Critical Art Ensemble, The Electronic Disturbance, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1994, chaps. 3-4, pp. 35-82.
    Tedjabayu, "INDONESIA: The Net as a Weapon", Cybersociology Magazine, Issue Five, April 1999.
    East Timor Action Network / US (ETAN), and ETAN Canada.
    Chris Nutall, "Virtual country 'nuked' on Net", Jan. 26, 1999, BBC News.


    8. The Regional Goes Global

    Critical Art Ensemble, The Electronic Disturbance, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1994, chaps. 5-6, pp. 83-128.
    Tim Jordan, "Cyberpower and the Meaning of Online Activism", Cybersociology Magazine, Issue Five, April 1999.
    Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).
    Kurdish Information Network.

    Michael Dartnell, Place, naming and power, March 12, 2000.
    aka KURDISTAN.
    The Siege and Commune of Paris, 1870-1871 (Northwestern University Library - Special Collections).
    Political Wall Murals in Northern Ireland (CAIN Project, University of Ulster).
    Oona Woods, "Seeing is Believing? Murals in Derry", in Seeing is Believing? Murals in Derry (1995).
    Neil Jarman, Painting Landscapes: The Place of Murals in the Symbolic Construction of Urban Space, in Symbols in Northern Ireland (Edited by Anthony Buckley, The Queen's University of Belfast, 1998).
    The Bogside Artists.

    9. Physical Authoritarians vs. Virtual Libertarians

    Jason Wehling, "Netwars and Activists' Power on the Internet", March 1995.
    Drazen Pantic, "Internet in Serbia: From the Dark Side of the Moon to Internet Revolution" First Monday, 1997.
    Motohiro Tsuchiya, "Regional Conflict and the Internet: World Wide Web Saved Kosovo?", International University of Japan, July 14, 1999.
    Free B92.
    Help B92.

    Insurgency Online project resources, Kosova and Serbia.
    Alternative Information Network in former Yugoslavia (AIM).
    INCORE guide to Internet sources on conflict and ethnicity in Serbia and Montenegro (University of Ulster).
    Wired News, "'Cyberwar' in Liberia, March 17, 2000.

    10. Digital Alternatives?

    Harry Cleaver, "The Zapatista Effect: The Internet and the Rise of an Alternative Political Fabric", Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 51, No. 2, Spring 1998, pp. 621-640.
    Stefan Wray, "Electronic Civil Disobedience and the World Wide Web of Hacktivism: A Mapping of Extraparliamentarian Direct Action Net Politics", paper for The World Wide Web and Contemporary Cultural Theory Conference, Drake University, November 1998.
    Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan.
    Taleban Islamic Movement of Afghanistan.


    11. Electronic Civil Conflict

    Stefan Wray, "On Electronic Civil Disobedience", Peace Review, 11, no. 1, 1999.
    Michael Dartnell, "Insurgency Online: http://burn.ucsd.edu/~ats/mrta.htm", 1999.
    MRTA (Tupac Amaru) Solidarity Page.


    Arquilla and Ronfeldt, The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico, Rand, 1998, chap. 7 and appendices A and B, pp. 113-154.
    Critical Art Ensemble, Electronic Civil Disobedience, chap. 6 and "Epilogue", pp. 113-139.
    Critical Art Ensemble, The Electronic Disturbance, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 1994, chaps. 5-6, pp. 129-146.
    Jesse Berst, "Backlash: Littleton Tragedy Jolts Internet Future", ZDNet, April 30, 1999.



    | Insurgency Online Webpage | Online Resource Guide to Political Inquiry |

    Questions? Please contact Michael Dartnell at: dartnell@yorku.ca.